Weddings Used to Be Sacred and Other Lessons About Internet

Gathered together in one place, for easy access, an agglomeration of writings and images relevant to the Rapeutation phenomenon.

Re: Weddings Used to Be Sacred and Other Lessons About Inter

Postby admin » Fri Jun 26, 2015 11:10 pm

Facebook's Sean Parker fined $2.5m for tasteless eco-trashing wedding
Fantasy-themed gala threatened wildlife, old-growth forest
by Neil McAllister
4 Jun 2013

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"Move fast and break things" is the unofficial motto of Facebook engineers, and for original Facebook president Sean Parker that philosophy apparently even applies to centuries-old redwood forests – at least where planning his wedding is concerned.

The California Coastal Commission has ordered Parker and property owners WTCC Ventana Investors to pay $2.5m in fines and restoration costs to undo the environmental damage caused by the Napster cofounder's June 1, 2013 nuptials.

A report released by the Commission on Monday reveals how Neraida LLC, a limited-liability corporation formed by Parker specifically to manage his $9m wedding to singer-songwriter Alexandra Lenas, conducted an extensive development project at a private site in the woods at Big Sur that caused soil erosion and endangered local wildlife, all without obtaining local, state, or federal government permits.

Seemingly not content with the natural wonders of the location, Parker reportedly had Neraida build numerous structures for the event, including:

... a gateway and arch, an artificial pond, a stone bridge, multiple event platforms with elevated floors, rock walls, artificially created ruins of cottages and castle walls, multiple locations with rock stairways, a dance floor, installation of numerous potted trees, potted plants and flowers, event tents, port-a-potties, generators, lighting, and wedding facilities


Some of these activities involved building stone staircases around old-growth redwood trees and planting non-native plants along the existing road beds and campsites to create a fantasy feel – Parker reportedly even hired Lord of the Rings costume designer Ngila Dickson to outfit his guests.

According to the Coastal Commission, all of this construction led to "continuing resource damage," including soil erosion into nearby Post Creek, a coastal stream that is a habitat and spawning ground for steelhead trout, a threatened species.

In addition, the construction for Parker's wedding caused the closure of public camping and parking facilities at Cadillac Flats for several months in violation of California's Coastal Act, which mandates that portions of the area be reserved for low-cost recreational use by the public.

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Photo of construction at Sean Parker's Big Sur wedding site
Never mind the ancient redwood trees, this looks like a lovely spot for some fake castle 'ruins'


The report explains how the Coastal Commission ordered Neraida to halt work on May 8, which it did ... for about a week. Construction then resumed, despite the Commission's warnings that the project risked violating the Coastal Act's permit requirements.

The Commission's June 3 judgment orders Neraida to cease and desist all construction activities on the site – a bit late, since the wedding took place two days earlier.

It also orders Parker, Neraida, and WTCC Ventana Investors to pay a penalty of $1m to the California Coastal Conservancy Fund, in addition to providing a minimum of $1.5m for one or more conservation or public access projects, subject to the approval of the executive director of the Coastal Commission.

"If the projects so approved to do not exhaust the $1,500,000 reserved and earmarked, additional projects shall be proposed, and the same process shall be followed, until all the funds are expended," the resolution states.

In a joint statement released on Monday, Coastal Commission executive director Charles Lester said Parker has been working with the Commission to resolve the matter.

"Mr. Parker has been extremely cooperative and actively involved in working with Coastal Commission staff to reach this resolution which both addresses our Coastal Act concerns and will result in greater coastal access and conservation in the Big Sur and Monterey Peninsula areas," Lester said.

The statement further added that Parker will either help produce a public education video with the Commission or create a mobile app designed to raise awareness of public natural recreation areas.

"We always dreamed of getting married in Big Sur, one of the most magical places on earth. In continuing my foundation's mission, we are excited to support these important conservation-related projects for and with the local community," Parker's statement said. ®
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Re: Weddings Used to Be Sacred and Other Lessons About Inter

Postby admin » Fri Jun 26, 2015 11:14 pm

Sean Parker Responds to Redwoods Wedding Criticism, and His Defense Is Actually Pretty Convincing
Read this letter. It may not change your mind about Sean Parker, but it adds some important details about the nature of the construction at the site.
by ALEXIS C. MADRIGAL
JUN 6, 2013

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Image

Earlier this week, I wrote about a report that the California Coastal Commission released about its interactions with Sean Parker over his wedding in a Redwood grove in Big Sur. From the language and photographs in the report, I came to some pretty harsh conclusions about the whole affair.

After the post was published, Parker wrote to me with a spirited defense of the wedding. He provided some details, which have reduced the boiling of my blood to a simmer. His whole email is reprinted below, but these are the key new facts, as I see them. One, Parker "consulted informally" with the Save the Redwoods League early in the process, so he wasn't building blindly. Two, according to Parker, the photograph of the gorgeous grove that was included in the CCC report as a "before" photograph was actually taken after Parker's crew had cleaned it up and gotten rid of a lot of the asphalt that had been laid down at the site. Three, his payment of $2.5 million was voluntary and "consistent with the kind of conservation work I'm already doing."

I attempted to reach the CCC to confirm these details, but have not heard back. You can read the staff report they issued here [pdf].

I can't say I agree that there is nothing extravagant about doing $4.5 million in site preparation, but I can say that at least it wasn't quite the know-nothing bigfooting that it appeared to be. Like I said in my original post, I don't really care that rich people spend insane amounts of money on their weddings; I just don't want everyone and everything else to get trampled along the way.

In retrospect, the Nixon administration's extraordinary campaign to undermine the credibility of the press succeeded to a remarkable extent, despite all the post-Watergate posturing in our profession. It succeeded in large part because of our own obvious shortcomings. The hard and simple fact is that our reporting has not been good enough. It was not good enough in the Nixon years, it got worse in the Reagan years, and it is no better now. We are arrogant. We have failed to open up our own institutions in the media to the same kind of scrutiny that we demand of other powerful institutions in the society. We are no more forthcoming or gracious in acknowledging error or misjudgment than the congressional miscreants and bureaucratic felons we spend so much time scrutinizing.

The greatest felony in the news business today (as Woodward recently observed) is to be behind, or to miss, a major story; or more precisely, to seem behind, or to seem in danger of missing, a major story. So speed and quantity substitute for thoroughness and quality, for accuracy and context. The pressure to compete, the fear that somebody else will make the splash first, creates a frenzied environment in which a blizzard of information is presented and serious questions may not be raised; and even in those fortunate instances in which such questions are raised (as happened after some of the egregious stories about the Clinton family), no one has done the weeks and months of work to sort it all out and to answer them properly.

Reporting is not stenography. It is the best obtainable version of the truth. The really significant trends in journalism have not been toward a commitment to the best and the most complex obtainable version of the truth, not toward building a new journalism based on serious, thoughtful reporting. Those are certainly not the priorities that jump out at the reader or the viewer from Page One or "Page Six" of most of our newspapers; and not what a viewer gets when he turns on the 11 o'clock local news or, too often, even network news productions.

"All right, was it really the best sex you ever had?" Those were the words of Diane Sawyer, in an interview of Marla Maples on "Prime Time Live," a broadcast of ABC News (where "more Americans get their news from ... than any other source"). Those words marked a new low (out of which Sawyer herself has been busily climbing). For more than fifteen years we have been moving away from real journalism toward the creation of a sleazoid info-tainment culture in which the lines between Oprah and Phil and Geraldo and Diane and even Ted, between the New York Post and Newsday, are too often indistinguishable. In this new culture of journalistic titillation, we teach our readers and our viewers that the trivial is significant, that the lurid and the loopy are more important than real news. We do not serve our readers and viewers, we pander to them. And we condescend to them, giving them what we think they want and what we calculate will sell and boost ratings and readership. Many of them, sadly, seem to justify our condescension, and to kindle at the trash. Still, it is the role of journalists to challenge people, not merely to amuse them.

We are in the process of creating, in sum, what deserves to be called the idiot culture. Not an idiot subculture, which every society has bubbling beneath the surface and which can provide harmless fun; but the culture itself. For the first time in our history the weird and the stupid and the coarse are becoming our cultural norm, even our cultural ideal. Last month in New York we witnessed a primary election in which "Donahue," "Imus in the Morning," and the disgraceful coverage of the New York Daily News and the New York Post eclipsed The New York Times, The Washington Post, the network news divisions, and the serious and experienced political reporters on the beat. Even The New York Times has been reduced to naming the rape victim in the Willie Smith case; to putting Kitty Kelley on the front page as a news story; to parlaying polls as if they were policies.

I do not mean to attack popular culture. Good journalism is popular culture, but popular culture that stretches and informs its consumers rather than that which appeals to the ever descending lowest common denominator. If, by popular culture, we mean expressions of thought or feeling that require no work of those who consume them, then decent popular journalism is finished. What is happening today, unfortunately, is that the lowest form of popular culture—lack of information, misinformation, disinformation, and a contempt for the truth or the reality of most people's lives—has overrun real journalism.

Today ordinary Americans are being stuffed with garbage: by Donahue-Geraldo-Oprah freak shows (cross-dressing in the marketplace; skinheads at your corner luncheonette; pop psychologists rhapsodizing over the airways about the minds of serial killers and sex offenders); by the Maury Povich news; by "Hard Copy"; by Howard Stern; by local newscasts that do special segments devoted to hyping hype. Last month, in supposedly sophisticated New York, the country's biggest media market, there ran a craven five-part series on the 11 o'clock news called "Where Do They Get Those People ...?," a special report on where Geraldo and Oprah and Donahue get their freaks (the promo for the series featured Donahue interviewing a diapered man with a pacifier in his mouth).

The point is not only that this is trash journalism. That much is obvious. It is also essential to note that this was on an NBC-owned and -operated station. And who distributes Geraldo? The Tribune Company of Chicago. Who owns the stations on which these cross-dressers and transsexuals and skinheads and lawyers for serial killers get to strut their stuff? The networks, the Washington Post Company, dozens of major newspapers that also own television stations, Times-Mirror and the New York Times Company, among others. And last month Ivana Trump, perhaps the single greatest creation of the idiot culture, a tabloid artifact if ever there was one, appeared on the cover of Vanity Fair. On the cover, that is, of Conde Nast's flagship magazine, the same Conde Nast/Newhouse/Random House whose executives will yield to nobody in their solemnity about their profession, who will tell you long into the night how seriously in touch with American culture they are, how serious they are about the truth.

Look, too, at what is on The New York Times best-seller list these days. Double Cross: The Explosive Inside Story of the Mobster Who Controlled America by Sam and Chuck Giancana, Warner Books, $22.95. (Don't forget that $22.95.) This book is a fantasy pretty much from cover to cover. It is riddled with inventions and lies, with conspiracies that never happened, with misinformation and disinformation, all designed to line somebody's pockets and satisfy the twisted egos of some fame-hungry relatives of a mobster. But this book has been published by Warner Books, part of Time Warner, a conglomerate I've been associated with for a long time. (All the President's Men is a Warner Bros. movie, the paperback of All the President's Men was also published by Warner Books, and I've just finished two years as a correspondent and contributor at Time.) Surely the publisher of Time has no business publishing a book, that its executives and its editors know is a historical hoax, with no redeeming value except financial.

By now the defenders of the institutions that I am attacking will have cried the First Amendment. But this is not about the First Amendment, or about free expression. In a free country, we are free for trash, too. But the fact that trash will always find an outlet does not mean that we should always furnish it with an outlet. And the great information conglomerates of this country are now in the trash business. We all know pornography when we see it, and of course it has a right to exist. But we do not all have to be porn publishers; and there is hardly a major media company in America that has not dipped its toe into the social and political equivalent of the porn business in the last fifteen years.

Many, indeed, are now waist-deep in the big muddy. Take Donahue. Eighteen years ago Woodward and I went to Ohio on our book tour because we were told that there was a guy doing a syndicated talk show there who was the most substantive interview in the business. And he was. Donahue had read our book. He had charts, he knew the evidence, he conducted a serious discussion about the implications of Watergate for the country and for the media. Last month, however, Donahue put Bill Clinton on his show—and for half an hour engaged in a mud wrestling contest that was even too much for the studio audience. Donahue was among those interviewed for that WNBC special report about "Where Do They Get Those People ...?," and on that report he uttered a damning extenuation to the effect that as Oprah and the others get farther out there, he too has to do it.

Yes, we have always had a sensational, popular, yellow tabloid press; and we have always had gossip columns, even powerful ones like Hedda Hopper's and Walter Winchell's. But never before have we had anything like today's situation in which supposedly serious people—I mean the so-called intellectual and social elites of this country—live and die by (and actually believe!) these columns and these shows and millions more rely upon them for their primary source of information. Liz Smith, Newsday's gossip columnist and the best of a bad lot, has admitted blithely on more than a few occasions that she doesn't try very hard to check the accuracy of many of her items, or even give the subjects of her column the opportunity to comment on what is being said about them.

For the eight years of the Reagan presidency, the press failed to comprehend that Reagan was a real leader—however asleep at the switch he might have seemed, however shallow his intellect. No leader since FDR so changed the American landscape or saw his vision of the country and the world so thoroughly implanted. But in the Reagan years we in the press rarely went outside Washington to look at the relationship between policy and legislation and judicial appointments to see how the administration's policies were affecting the people—the children and the adults and the institutions of America: in education, in the workplace, in the courts, in the black community, in the family paycheck. In our ridicule of Reagan's rhetoric about the "evil empire," we failed to make the connection between Reagan's policies and the willingness of Gorbachev to loosen the vise of communism. Now the record is slowly becoming known. We have, in fact, missed most of the great stories of our generation, from Iran-contra to the savings and loan debacle.

The failures of the press have contributed immensely to the emergence of a talk-show nation, in which public discourse is reduced to ranting and raving and posturing. We now have a mainstream press whose news agenda is increasingly influenced by this netherworld. On the day that Nelson Mandela returned to Soweto and the allies of World War II agreed to the unification of Germany, the front pages of many "responsible" newspapers were devoted to the divorce of Donald and Ivana Trump.

-- The Idiot Culture, by Carl Bernstein


Here's a lightly edited version of the email that Parker sent me presenting his side of the story.

Alexis,

I read your article with a great deal of sadness and dismay.

First and foremost is that nobody goes out of their way to get married in a redwood forest unless they really love redwood forests. Getting married beneath an old growth redwood tree has been a dream shared by me and my wife for a long time. We spent two years hiking redwood groves, both public and private, in order to locate the perfect spot for our wedding. We needed to find private land that had been previously developed ("disturbed land" in CCC vernacular) so that there would be minimal environmental impact. When we found the Ventana campground site it was not exactly in pristine shape -- the natural ground cover was gone and it had been paved over with black asphalt! The pictures in the CCC report probably show what the site looked like after I removed (or covered) all the black asphalt (which I found appalling) using either bulldozers or just by spreading dirt and forest brush around the area. It is also possible that this area had been cleared as a camping "pad" for an RV or mobile home. Regardless, an undisturbed forest would not be dirt or asphalt, it would be covered in vegetation of some sort.

Second, my foundation has only two primary missions, one is cancer research (specifically cancer immunotherapy), and the other is conservation. I have begun a program of "conservation buying" - that is where I locate private land that needs to be protected, buy it with my own funds, and then donate it to someone like state parks or non-profits to maintain it for the public benefit. I spend quite a bit of my foundation's money on conservation related projects. To that end, I had previously been a major donor to the Save the Redwoods League.

I needed help finding a forest to host the event. Finding a forest with some old growth redwood trees that can accommodate 300 people is no easy task. I enlisted the help of Save the Redwoods to identify the site, and they suggested the Ventana campground precisely because it was private property and not public land, and it was owned and operated by a hospitality business (a hotel) and had previously been used for events. You mention that I "privatized the previously public." There is no sense is which this was public land. The only issue with the campground was that it had been closed to campers for several years due to fire and other issues. The Ventana has an active contractual obligation with the CCC to keep the campground open on a for-profit basis. Given that I was just renting the (already closed) campground for a short time, I could not have possibly known about this issue, and my wedding did not prolong the closure of the campground in any way.

The Save the Redwoods League actually consulted informally on the project from Day 1, sending their Director of Science down to the site to educate our naturalist regarding a plan for work that would be minimally environmentally disruptive to the local redwood and riparian habitats. This is something I chose to do entirely of my own volition and without any pressure from government agencies. (This took place winter of last year.) At this point we had no issues with the CCC or any other agency, I just wanted everything to be as authentic as possible and I didn't want to disrupt the natural habitat. I only knew to do this because I had an existing understanding of forest restoration via my conservation work and I also have an appreciation for what a natural redwood forest should look like because of my time spent hiking around redwood forests. We want to crazy lengths to ensure that nothing in the forest was harmed during the construction process. We used fabric liners to protect the ground from our landscaping work. We avoided planting directly in the soil, instead we brought in potted plants. Contrary to media reports, no redwood trees were harmed by the wedding or construction. (At least none that I'm aware of.)

While we made some mistakes, by and large the biologists who were sent out to the site (by the CCC and others) were happy with the measures we'd taken. Of course it's impossible to get everything exactly right at a production of this scale. Keep in mind when we found it, the campground was full of black asphalt roads, picnic tables, and all kinds of other man-made structures.

Everything we built was designed to be dismantled and removed after the wedding. I inquired about the need for permits early in the process and was informed that, due to the temporary nature of the construction, no such permit would be required. The CCC and Monterey County both offer some sort of exemptions for temporary events. Almost all the structures you see were designed to be temporary--they were actually built off-site and then reassembled on the topsoil of the campground. There is no mortar inside them, so they will just come apart like legos and get carried off. My original agreement with Ventana provided for me to restore the property to the condition in which I had found it, which was anything but perfect. The campground was missing all the normal sorrel leaf ground cover and other foliage. All the the greenery that you see in my photographs had to be brought in by me since the campground had been totally stripped of any vegetation when I found it. My goal was to leave the property in much better condition than when I found it.

More importantly, because I was just renting the site from a hotel, my representatives were told by relevant agencies, such as the CCC and Monterey County planning commission, that it was the responsibility of the property owner, not the hotel guest, to obtain any necessary permits.

How can a hotel guest paying a hotel to host their wedding be in a position to legally apply for permits covering a property that they do not own? There was neither an obligation, contractual or otherwise, nor any legal way for me to apply for permits.

You should also be aware that the $2.5 million was not, strictly speaking, a "fine" for any particular violation. We conceded to pay a $1 million into the CCC's conservation fund, and then work together to deploy a minimum of an additional $1.5 million in charitable contributions to help the Monterey/Big Sur area. This is all work that is consistent with the kind of conservation work I'm already doing. We have some great ideas about how to provide affordable (read: free) camping by bussing under-privileged kids and other groups into the Big Sur area for a free camping experience that they would get to have otherwise. Keep in mind, this is a minimum contribution, I am open to giving much more as the conservation projects develop.

The vision behind this wedding was to integrate with nature as much as possible, to bring out the natural beauty of the site while incorporating the kinds of things that one would need at a wedding. We did as much landscaping as possible using native species (ferns, sorrel ground cover, forget-me-not flowers), and everything was placed in potted plants with mulch around them so as not to plant or introduce foreign species into the forest. We used no invasive species.

There were no "ruined castles" built in the forest. The only stonework were walkways for the guests and walls that served as barriers between the different areas. I don't know where all this talk of castles and towers and things came from. The stonework is actually hollow (filled with bird wire) so that it can be removed quickly.

We had a very specific aesthetic vision for this event that was subtle, tasteful, and carefully orchestrated. Everything we did was an homage to nature, to the natural redwood environment which I call "God's cathedral." We wanted the forest to speak for itself, but we had to build the basic minimum features to make the campground safe and viable for a wedding.

Finally, you mention that what we did was "extravagant" yet none of the usual tasteless crap that rich people do at their weddings was present here -- no ice sculptures, no caviar, no pop stars hired to sing their hits songs, etc. This is why your article and so many other articles have been so deeply offensive. Maybe I will be allowed to release some photos of the event at some point so you can see first hand what we created rather than just speculating based on what else has been published in the press. All of the numbers that have been released were total fabrications (this $9 million number of instance) and are WAY off base. I will say, against my better instinct to tell you, that we spent roughly $4.5 million on prepping the site and big part of that was restoring the forest floor (I should say, covering the forest floor with plants) since it had been paved over in black asphalt or cleared by bulldozers before we ever laid eyes on the campground.

best,

sp
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Re: Weddings Used to Be Sacred and Other Lessons About Inter

Postby admin » Fri Jun 26, 2015 11:16 pm

Agency settles dispute over Sean Parker wedding
Coastal Commission OKs $2.5-million settlement with the tech billionaire over ceremony amid Big Sur's redwoods. Panel's chief thanks Parker for exposing the closure of a campground to the public.
By Maria L. La Ganga
June 18, 2013|
Los Angeles Times

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Sean Parker and Alexandra Lenas were married June 1 in a Big Sur ceremony that raised the ire of the California Coastal Commission.(Mark Seliger )

MENLO PARK, Calif. — It was bad enough that his multimillion-dollar wedding became a symbol of Silicon Valley excess. But then billionaire tech guru Sean Parker was blasted in the headlines as an environmental menace over party preparations that had allegedly damaged Big Sur's storied redwoods.

The Napster co-founder and former Facebook president wed singer-songwriter Alexandra Lenas on June 1 in a campground owned by the posh Ventana Inn & Spa. To set the scene for their fantasy, the couple trucked in plants and flowers, dug an artificial pond and erected a stone bridge and elevated dance floor amid the old-growth forest.

The one thing they did not do was apply for a permit.

The California Coastal Commission on Friday agreed to a $2.5-million settlement with Parker and Ventana, a payment that will go toward enhancing access to Big Sur's coastline, trails and forests. After the vote, Chairwoman Mary Shallenberger had harsh words — but not for the 33-year-old and his bride. In fact, Shallenberger said she was grateful to Parker for exposing a public wrong.

It seems that to get commission approval for an expansion more than 30 years ago, Ventana had agreed to keep the nearby low-cost campground open to all visitors. But the inn, where room rates can run as high as $4,000 a night, closed it in 2007 in violation of state law.

"I thank Mr. Parker for having his wedding there, so we discovered all the violations and the six years where the public has not had access," Shallenberger said.

In their first joint interview on the controversy that has generated online threats, Parker and Lenas said Tuesday that their wedding was magical and environmentally sensitive.

"It's really sad how little old-growth is left," Lenas said.

According to Parker, the couple enlisted the Save the Redwoods League for help in finding a suitable locale to tie the knot. (He previously had donated $250,000 to the group.) The league suggested the Ventana campground, Parker said, because it was partially paved and out of service.

"Save the Redwoods League sent their chief scientist down to look at it and provide us with a plan to do this in an eco-sensitive way," Parker said. "So much of the press accused us of eco-trashing.… We couldn't have been more conscientious about our approach. We went out of our way to do this the right way."

Parker and Lenas leased the campground in November and began building an elaborate set for the wedding in March — at a cost of about $4.5 million.

Then, less than three weeks before the big event, the Coastal Commission called Ventana, Parker said. And Ventana called him.

"They said we needed to stop work and couldn't go on with the wedding," he said, sitting with Lenas in a Menlo Park location that they requested remain undisclosed. (The couple postponed their Bora Bora honeymoon to deal with the hubbub.) "I had never heard of the Coastal Commission at that point. I hadn't heard of the Coastal Act of 1976. I wasn't around in 1976."

So Parker hired attorney Rick Zbur, chairman of the California League of Conservation Voters, and worked toward the settlement with the commission. Lenas called the days leading up to the wedding "devastating."

"This was a very agonizing 20-day period," Parker said. "For most of it, we thought the wedding wouldn't happen at all.…The Coastal Commission quickly discovered the hotel was not in compliance and that became the focal point." After that, the couple got clearance from the panel to proceed with their ceremony.

Parker said that he and Lenas — who is in the process of changing her last name — felt as if they were caught in the middle. They had worked with the hotel for months, he said, but the Ventana Inn staff never said any permits were needed. And their contract included a provision that Parker indemnify the hotel for any costs related to the wedding.

"If I hadn't been a high-profile person with resources," he said, "I wouldn't be held up for … something I didn't do."

Under the terms of the settlement, Parker will pay $1 million to address the liabilities related to the unpermitted construction.

Lisa Haage, the commission's chief of enforcement, told the panel Friday that "the environmental damage from the wedding-related construction work was less serious than we had originally feared, in part due to the fact that the large majority of the development was performed on a campground and existing road, not in a virgin forest."

In addition, Parker will pay "a minimum of $1.5 million" to fund online conservation or public access efforts as a way to mitigate Ventana's six-year campground closure. One possibility, McLendon said, is a statewide mobile device app akin to the one focused on Malibu's beaches.

And Ventana Inn has agreed to reopen the campground no later than October 2014.
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Re: Weddings Used to Be Sacred and Other Lessons About Inter

Postby admin » Fri Jun 26, 2015 11:19 pm

Sean Parker Wedding Brings Ventana Inn’s Campground Violations to Light
by Kera Abraham
June 13, 2013

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High-Security Forest: A private guard mans the entrance to Ventana Inn’s closed campground, where Sean Parker’s wedding occurred the prior weekend.
Posted: Thursday,


A few days after Facebook billionaire Sean Parker’s June 1 wedding to Alexandra Lenas, beeping machinery drowns out birdsong at the forested campground he rented at Big Sur’s Ventana Inn & Spa. U-Hauls and portable toilets sit on the soil among pieces of plywood, crushed gravel and stone masonry.

It’s hard to see just what’s going on in there; the road into the campground is blocked by a gate and private security.

But in the national uproar over Parker’s wedding – which reportedly involved the construction of a Game of Thrones-esque fantasy land in the protected coastal redwoods, in violation of the California Coastal Act – not much press has been given to one of the state’s most significant findings: This space is supposed to be open to the public.

The 100-site campground, meant to facilitate lower-cost public access to the high-demand redwoods, was a condition of Ventana’s 1982 permit to expand, according to the Coastal Commission’s June 14 staff report.

Then shit happened, literally. In fall 2007, the Monterey County Health Department ordered the campground closed and put an occupancy cap on the inn after discovering human waste leaking next to a bathhouse and running into Post Creek.

But Ventana, according to the Coastal Commission, never got the permit amendment it needed to close the campground to the public. Nor did it get permits for the construction of Parker’s medieval wedding set six years later.

“Mr. Parker, in essence, leased an ongoing Coastal Act violation when he leased the campground,” commission spokeswoman Sarah Christie says.

Ventana managers did not return the Weekly’s multiple calls. But Roger VanHorn, the county’s senior environmental health specialist, says neither the health department nor the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board, which had cooperated in the sewage inspection, realized the inn had to notify the Coastal Commission to close the campground back in 2007.

He says Ventana has invested millions in a new wastewater treatment plant, able to treat up to 30,000 gallons per day. That plant is now online, he says, and the county is evaluating the last of the inn’s treated-wastewater dispersal fields.

“The system they put in is ultra-modern,” he says. “Once it comes online, they’re going to have a better facility there than they ever had before.”

Yet the campground was made available for a private event in the meantime. The contract between Ventana’s parent company and Neraida LLC, the corporation Parker created to handle the wedding, gives Parker’s crew exclusive use of the campground from March to July.

Under a settlement dated June 3, Parker agrees to pay $2.5 million toward conservation and coastal-access projects. Christie says $1 million of that is a penalty for the unpermitted wedding construction; Parker paid the other $1.5 million on the inn’s behalf for Ventana’s unpermitted closure of the public campground.

In a separate settlement, the inn agrees to restore public parking, improve public trails, install trailhead signs, create a public-access guide to its amenities, upgrade the campground and reopen it to the public, “if at all possible,” by Oct. 15.

VanHorn says the inn can’t meet that target date until the county green-lights the wastewater dispersal fields, which won’t likely happen until next spring.

The Coastal Commission will vote on the two settlements Friday, June 14. The Parker team is not allowed to dismantle the wedding set until commission staff signs off on a removal plan.

The commission took some public heat for failing to halt the wedding after the violations came to light. But Christie notes the commission immediately issued a cease-and-desist order, only allowing the wedding to proceed because the damage had been done by the time the inspectors arrived.

She says the commission couldn’t do much to stop it, anyway. “The coast is not as protected as people assume it is because we are so understaffed,” she says, noting the commission’s backlog of 1,876 violations. “The staff is completely dedicated, but the system is dysfunctional.”

For example, 21 state agencies are empowered to issue fines directly, but the Coastal Commission is not one of them. Instead, the commission can take violators to court and ask a judge to impose a fine – something Christie says has only happened four times in the last 10 years. “Who wouldn’t go to Vegas with those odds?” she asks.

A bill that recently passed the Assembly, San Diego Democrat Toni Atkins’ AB 976, would grant the commission that administrative-penalty authority. It now heads to the Senate.

Another bill, Santa Cruz Dem Mark Stone’s AB 203, would have required coastal development permit applicants to clean up prior violations first – a step that could have prevented Parker’s wedding. It passed out of the Appropriations Committee, but it was moved to the inactive file because the bill , opposed by big business and big ag, lacked the votes to pass on the Assembly floor.
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Re: Weddings Used to Be Sacred and Other Lessons About Inter

Postby admin » Fri Jun 26, 2015 11:21 pm

Sean Parker says he had to pay wedding fines
by USA Today
June 21, 2013
Sean Parker

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(Photo: Mark Seliger)

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — The Big Sur resort where Sean Parker held his posh, Lord of the Rings-inspired wedding threatened to cancel it if he didn't agree to pay for the unpermitted wedding construction and the inn's past land use violations, Parker told The Associated Press on Friday.

The co-founder of Napster and former Facebook president said that after two years of wedding planning, the Ventana Inn & Spa preferred to cancel 20 days before the event rather than work out an agreement with the California Coastal Commission.

"As soon as Ventana found out there was an issue they threatened to cancel the wedding unless I entered into a broad indemnification agreement," Parker said in an email. "We had nowhere to go at that point, no backup plan, and there was no place in the Big Sur area that could accommodate 360 guests."

Multiple calls to Ventana were not returned. A spokeswoman for Oaktree Capital Management, which owns the Ventana, said the firm would not comment.

The resort is located within the coastal zone, an area regulated by the commission, an independent state agency that oversees beachside development. Any significant construction within the zone has to be permitted.

Parker, 33, who was portrayed by Justin Timberlake in the movie "The Social Network," married singer-songwriter Alexandra Lenas in a ceremony with gowns and sets made by a designer for the "Lord of the Rings" films.

But after a neighbor complained about the construction, a commission investigation found that Parker had been allowed to build fake ruins, a cottage, a large dance floor and other structures near iconic redwoods and a stream with threatened fish, all without the proper permits.

Also, the Ventana had allowed Parker to build the wedding site in a campground that had been closed to the public in violation of the inn's permits, according to the coastal commission's report.

Parker agreed to pay $2.5 million in a settlement with the commission that includes Ventana's past violations and money future conservation programs overseen by the commission.

After agreeing to pay for Ventana's $1 million fines, negotiations between Parker's attorney and the commission also led to him contributing $1.5 million for the purchase of public easements and hiking trails in the Big Sur area and as grants for nonprofits doing conservation projects.

Parker came up with that amount on a "back of the napkin" estimate of how much it would cost to purchase easements in the Big Sur area.

Also, as part of the settlement, Parker offered to produce and distribute a public education video or create a mobile app aimed at helping to identify areas where the public can access the coast.

The commission could have shut down the wedding regardless of what Ventana and Parker agreed to, but chose not to.

"After inspecting the site, commission staff determined that any potential resource impacts associated with the development had already occurred, and as long as the structures were removed properly and in a timely fashion, those impacts would not be exacerbated by the actual event. So rather than shutting down the wedding, we focused on removal and mitigation," Sarah Christie, a commission spokeswoman, said in an email.

Parker said it was unreasonable for Ventana to assume that he, as the renter of the site, should have known that coastal commission permits were needed for him to stage the event.

"Ultimately, the Ventana was unwilling to accept any financial responsibility and preferred to cancel our wedding rather than work things out with the commission," Parker said. "We had no choice but to step in and pay for all of their violations, both the unpermitted construction and also their past liability related to the campground closure."

The billionaire said he is passionate about the forest, and only agreed to the wedding site after consulting with the Save the Redwoods League.

"The idea that I was a menace to the environment, or that I trashed trees is the kind of allegation that frustrates me," Parker said. "It is really emotionally difficult and frustrates my ability to do conservation work in the future."

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.
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Re: Weddings Used to Be Sacred and Other Lessons About Inter

Postby admin » Fri Jun 26, 2015 11:23 pm

CALIFORNIA COASTAL COMMISSION REACHES FINAL SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT IN PARKER WEDDING AND CAMPGROUND CLOSURE
STATE OF CALIFORNIA—NATURAL RESOURCES AGENCY EDMUND G. BROWN, JR., GOVERNOR
CALIFORNIA COASTAL COMMISSION
45 FREMONT STREET, SUITE 2000
SAN FRANCISCO, CA 94105- 2219
VOICE (415) 904- 5200
FAX ( 415) 904- 5400
TDD (415) 597-5885

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TO ALL MEDIA
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: Sarah Christie 916-747-1164

Website: http://www.coastal.ca.gov

CALIFORNIA COASTAL COMMISSION REACHES FINAL SETTLEMENT AGREEMENT IN PARKER WEDDING AND CAMPGROUND CLOSURE

LONG BEACH, Calif. (June 14, 2013)—The California Coastal Commission unanimously approved a final settlement agreement to resolve a series of Coastal Act violations at the Ventana Campground in Big Sur, stemming in part from the June 1 wedding of Sean Parker and Alexandra Lenas. The settlement includes payments of $2.5 million, which will be used by the Sate Coastal Conservancy and local non‐profit or public organizations to enhance public access in the Big Sur area, such as creating new hiking trails, easement purchases, and funding programs to make it possible for inner city youth and other underserved communities to reach and explore the coast. The Coastal Commission itself will not receive any of the settlement monies.

“Any time we can settle a violation and avoid litigation, we consider that a good outcome,” said California Coastal Commission Chairperson Mary Shallenberger. “Unlike other state regulatory agencies, the Commission doesn’t have the legal authority to fine violators so we must rely on settlement agreements like this to restore damaged resources and fund mitigation efforts.”

Mr. Parker leased the campground from the Ventana Inn and Spa in November 2012, and began building and assembling numerous structures on the site in March, including rock walls, stairways, a stone bridge, a faux cottage and pond, a stone archway and a dance floor. Any new development in the Coastal Zone requires a coastal development permit, consistent with Coastal Act policies that protect coastal resources and public access. By the time the Commission staff was notified, most of the construction was complete. Coastal Commission staff determined that the structures should be removed as soon as possible, but that no further damage to the site was likely to occur from allowing the wedding to proceed.

“Our issue was with the development, not the event,” said Lisa Haage, the Commission’s Chief of Enforcement. “If we had thought the wedding itself was going to cause additional harm to the forest, we would have stopped it. But we determined that allowing guests to attend a wedding at a public campground was not going to harm coastal resources. Instead, we focused on how best to restore the site, and brought this to the Commission as quickly as possible. We think this is a good outcome because it protects the redwoods, restores the site and provides public access benefits that the public will enjoy for generations.”

However, the Commission staff’s investigation revealed an equally troubling, if less obvious, Coastal Act violation: the fact that the campground had been illegally closed for the last six years. As mitigation for a 1982 Coastal permit to expand the luxury hotel, the Inn had agreed to continue to operate the campground in order to provide affordable overnight accommodations, since this is a major concern in the Big Sur area. In spite of this requirement, the Ventana Inn closed the campground in 2007 due to water quality concerns, without notifying or obtaining permission from the Commission, offering a plan to re‐open, or providing an alternative to replace the campground.

“Closing the campground for six years had a significant impact on public access and recreation,” said Coastal Commission Executive Director Charles Lester. “Big Sur is an extremely popular destination for visitors, and competition for campsites is always high. The campground was an important part of the original permit and was essential for the Commission to be able to approve the luxury hotel expansion under the Coastal Act. Reopening the campground as soon as possible, and providing other public benefits like new trails, public access information and signs can at least partially mitigate for the campground closure.”

The settlement agreement ensures that all of the structures will be removed as quickly as possible, in a manner that avoids any damage to the forest habitat, and any necessary restoration of the area. The water quality issues at the Ventana Campground will be corrected and the campground re‐opened for public use no later than October 2014. The agreements also require campground improvements, new public trails, public access signs and information, removal of invasive plants, as well as funding for conservation and public access projects in the Big Sur area. In addition, it provides for the development of an online video and/or mobile app designed to educate users about access rights and conservation issues.

“This issue has generated more media attention for the Coastal Commission than anything I can remember in my 40 years of working with the program,” said Mary Shallenberger. “And the takeaway message is loud and clear. Nobody should be above the law when it comes to protecting the coast and public access. The public expects us to do more, not less, to carry out the Coastal Act.”
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Re: Weddings Used to Be Sacred and Other Lessons About Inter

Postby admin » Fri Jun 26, 2015 11:30 pm

Sean Parker rethinks world he helped create
BY DAN MORAIN, SENIOR EDITOR - DMORAIN@SACBEE.COM
June 30, 2013

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In a week when love, marriage and legal proceedings were in the air, it seemed perfectly fitting that Sean Parker would be on the phone.

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The wedding of Sean Parker and Alexandra Lenas created a fantasy scene on land in the coastal zone, leading to California Coastal Commission sanctions. California Coastal Commission

In a week when love, marriage and legal proceedings were in the air, it seemed perfectly fitting that Sean Parker would be on the phone.

Parker told me he was delighted that the Supreme Court issued decisions striking down part of the Defense of Marriage Act and opening the way for the legalization of same-sex marriage in California. But that wasn't why he was calling. His own wedding was on his mind.

"Weddings are sacred and inviolable, and it should have been treated with a greater level of respect," he said. "What this did to my wife was very painful to watch."

Parker is a hacker and Internet entrepreneur who became Facebook's first president before he was 30, and at age 19, created Napster, the music sharing – or stealing – platform. He became incredibly wealthy in the process.

In the days leading up to his June 1 wedding to singer-songwriter Alexandra Lenas, Parker became a meme and an object of online derision, ironic given the part he has played in the evolution of the Internet. The episode is causing him to rethink what he and others like him have wrought. What he says is worth contemplating.

To be sure, the wedding story was tailor-made for gossip sites, snarky articles and even a Bee editorial: Silicon Valley billionaire and his lovely bride go over the top on a Tolkien-themed wedding, hiring a Hollywood costume designer to dress the 300-plus guests, including Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom and Attorney General Kamala Harris.

Parker acknowledges the $4.5 million affair was indulgent, but noted most people spend too much on weddings. It was his money, and this is California, a state where fortunes can get made in a flash, and where fantasies still get lived out.

The ceremony took place in Big Sur on the private grounds of Ventana Inn & Spa. In preparation for the nuptials, the couple's work crews brought in a bulldozer and built a gateway, artificial pond, stone bridge, elevated floors, rock walls, artificial ruins of castle walls, rock stairways and a dance floor, and brought in 125 potted trees, tents, generators and lighting.

The site was hardly pristine. Much of it was gravel. But because the property was within the coastal zone, someone – Parker or more likely Ventana – should have gotten a Coastal Commission permit. No one did.

After discovering the construction in May, Coastal Commission investigators contemplated calling the whole thing off. But they concluded that the damage wouldn't be worsened by the wedding. Besides, Parker was willing to use his wealth to make things right.

He paid $1 million to cover costs associated with violations of the Coastal Protection Act and to help reopen a campground on the site that had been closed since 2007. He also will pay no less than $1.5 million to increase access to Big Sur.

"If it ends up costing $3 million, it ends up being $3 million," he said.

The Coastal Commission approved the settlement earlier this month, and commissioners praised Parker's handling of it.

"I was personally Bridezilla at a couple points in my life, so I'm sure it was very stressful," said Coastal Commissioner Wendy Mitchell, a former Capitol staffer. "I just wanted to say it's nice when mistakes are made and then people step up and then go above and beyond what even staff requested."

With the commission issue resolved, Parker took to his own defense, publishing a 9,500-word essay on the TechCrunch website last week in which he laments the rise of gossip sites and the demise of old-fashioned reporting. As a 36-year member of the old school, I appreciated what he wrote, though he could have said it in fewer words.

"I have spent more than a decade," Parker wrote, "creating products built on the premise that the democratization of media was a good thing, that self-publishing, the free sharing of information and the removal of the media 'gatekeepers' would all lead to a freer, more open media – with the implied assumption that this was a 'better' media.

"I have watched as these new mediums helped foment revolutions, overturn governments and give otherwise invisible people a voice, and I have also watched them used to extend the impact of real-world bullying from physical interactions into the online world, so kids growing up today can now be tormented from anywhere.

"I have also witnessed these mediums used to form massive digital lynch mobs, which I have been at the mercy of more than once. I guess it's only fitting that I would be; the universe has a funny way of returning these things in kind."

Parker isn't seeking sympathy, which is good because he is a tough guy to feel sorry for. He is one of the great beneficiaries of the new world order, a billionaire, according to Forbes, thanks to those of us who have Facebook pages and have bought into any of the other tech innovations he helped create.

We share in the good and the bad that Parker and people like him helped build. The Internet has spread democracy and light, but its anonymity is corrosive to discourse.

Too often users delude themselves into thinking that art and journalism should be free, and steal it. Parker has come to the conclusion that privacy and copyright laws should be tightened, anathema to many people in his world. Welcome.

The silliness surrounding his wedding could turn out to be one of the better things to have happened to the coast since voters approved the 1972 initiative that led to the California Coastal Act, depending on how he spends his money.

Parker, not the caricature he was made out to be, is bothered that California's remaining timber companies log redwoods. He lives in New York but is contemplating returning to California and getting more involved in initiative politics. He helped fund a site called Votizen, to increase citizen participation, and merged it with Causes.com, another site that seeks to foster involvement. There are worse ways to spend a fortune than on democracy.

If he follows through, he will find that coverage of people engaged in politics can be biting, though probably not as personal as what he endured leading up to his wedding.

Follow Dan Morain on Twitter @danielmorain. Back columns, http://www.sacbee.com/morain.

Read more here: http://www.sacbee.com/opinion/opn-colum ... %20Opinion#storylink=cpy
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Re: Weddings Used to Be Sacred and Other Lessons About Inter

Postby admin » Fri Jun 26, 2015 11:38 pm

The Silicon Valley Whipping Boy
copyright 2015 PandoMedia Inc.

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When I first read Alexis Madrigal’s ball-busting assault on the environmental ill-effects of Sean Parker’s forest wedding, I was appalled. I wanted to tweet the link to the Atlantic story with the comment “disgusting” or “Fuck you, Sean Parker,” just like some of my friends did. I like forests! People who hurt them are really shitty. So Madrigal’s descriptions, based on a report by the California Coastal Commission, were enough to rankle.

Parker, Madrigal charged, had cut a deal with a hotel to transform an ecologically sensitive area that used to be a campground into the backdrop for his gaudy wedding, replete with walls, water effects, and fake ruins – and all without a permit!

“Nothing says, ‘I love the Earth!’ quite like bringing bulldozers into an old-growth forest to create a fake ruined castle,” Madrigal wrote.

But then I thought, “I wonder how Sean Parker would have defended himself if he were given the opportunity.” Often, it turns out that stories such as these are more complicated than they first appear.

Of course, Parker wasn’t allowed a say. Instead, Madrigal, a reporter whose work I usually admire – the author of this wonderful history of a brick and this excellent elucidation of an under-acknowledged channel of information sharing – used his allegations against the Napster-founder-turned-early-Facebooker to support an argument that drew broader conclusions about the behavior of spoiled Silicon Valley frat-brats.

Calling Parker's wedding “grandstanding” that Valley pioneers Bob Noyce, Gordon Moore, and Bill Davidow would be ashamed of, Madrigal said:

But, of course, that's also part of the new Silicon Valley parable: dream big, privatize the previously public, pay no attention to the rules, build recklessly, enjoy shamelessly, invoke magic, and then pay everybody off.

So the problem went from being Sean Parker and his ostentatious ways to everything that was wrong with Silicon Valley. Parker’s apparent disregard for anything outside his selfish needs was, Madrigal suggested, consistent with a wider pattern of self-interested, spoiled brat behavior endemic to Valley culture.

The examples Madrigal cited are convincing enough. He pointed to the famous New Yorker profile on singularity-obsessed Peter Thiel; a Washington Post story about Uber’s disregard for legal considerations; a Fast Company story about Bill Nguyen’s reckless company-building; and a Nick Bilton column about over-the-top Silicon Valley parties. It's true that Thiel is a big dreamer. [Disclosure: Thiel is an investor in PandoDaily via the Founders Fund.] And yep, Uber is a shady player. PandoDaily contributor Paul Carr methodically disemboweled Uber founder Travis Kalanick on those grounds. And yeah, it’s right to call out Bill Nguyen for “failing up.” I wrote about a guy like that just the other day. Stupid Valley parties are also fair game – and I would like to add serving sushi on iPads to the list of deplorable party antics.

But for the rather more provocative “privatize the previously public” charge? Well, a link to an article that’s critical about the buses that Google uses to shuttle its employees to work is hardly evidence of sweeping privatization. The buses, actually, are stuffed with people who are pretty solidly middle class, and one of the reasons they exist is so they can support the “always on” work culture that these companies encourage. If you’re going to criticize anything about the buses, the mania for constant work should be it. It’s also notable that Google doesn’t have such buses in New York City, which has infinitely better transportation infrastructure than does spread-out Silicon Valley.

Nor is Madrigal’s claim that the Valley “invokes magic” well backed-up. The link he provides to support that claim leads to a Google search for the phrase “Silicon Valley magic” that throws up a few results with headlines written by people who are distinctly not Silicon Valley entrepreneurs.

I was left with the sense that Madrigal’s list of charges against Silicon Valley was included for reasons of poetry more than proof. It sounded good and on the surface seemed true. Indeed, commenters jumped in to cheer him on. “What did you expect from one of the people that foisted facebook on the world?” said one of the most upvoted comments. “Ayn Rand would applaud,” said another. For believers of the “Silicon Valley is a hive of festering narcissism and destruction” meme, the illusion of depth in Madrigal’s argument was more than enough to confirm their prejudices.

I don’t mean to pick on Madrigal’s piece. It simply stood out not only because of the emotive topic and controversial antagonist but also because of the timing. It comes on the heels of a spate of recent articles that have been highly critical of Silicon Valley culture. Joel Kotkin, writing for the Daily Beast, dedicated nearly 3,000 words to “Silicon Valley’s Shady 1 Percenters.” George Packer, in a New Yorker piece I have already argued was a bit skewed, described Valleyites as intellectually undeveloped and focused mainly on solving the problems of rich 20-year-olds. In February, Rebecca Solnit took aim at the Google bus, saying it sometimes seems like a face of “Janus-headed capitalism.” The bus, she said, contains “the people too valuable even to use public transport or drive themselves.”

There are entire blogs – ones that apparently make money – dedicated to chiding Silicon Valley. And of course, there’s “The Social Network,” Aaron Sorkin’s pièce de résistance about Valley excess and hubris. While the film is three years old now, and a work of fiction, it still seems to be the main source on which the general public base their opinions of Sean Parker.

I can sympathize with the Silicon Valley bashing. I’ve made fun of its douchey insider speak, mocked its hero culture, and bemoaned its “thought leader” bloviating. And trust me, I have no particular reason to defend the “new oligarchs” of the Valley. I am a New Zealander who lives in Baltimore. I have no aspirations to be part of the Silicon Valley world; I'm happy as an outsider.

But picking on the Valley is fun because it’s so easy, and because there’s ample material to draw on. Yammer CEO David Sacks threw a ridiculously lavish birthday party for himself with Snoop Lion as a guest performer. David Morin has daytime and nighttime iPhones. Tumblr CEO David Karp ended his announcement of the company’s $1.1 billion acquisition at the hands of Yahoo with a juvenile “Fuck yeah.” (He’s a New Yorker, but what the hell.) These are easy targets in the snark-infested waters of Internet commentary. And it’s hard to feel sorry for people who can afford three holiday homes before they turn 24, especially when they are overwhelmingly privileged white males.

While it’s easy to mock the Valley, it doesn’t necessarily follow that the culture is intellectually shallow, that it has a tendency to privatize the previously public, or that it is basically just an extension of Sean Parker’s garish wedding in the Redwoods.

In his headline on the takedown piece, Madrigal says the wedding is “the Perfect Parable for Silicon Valley Excess.” That may sound good, but what if it’s not the perfect parable at all? What if Parker’s possibly destructive and totally excessive wedding was actually an exception? What if it just happened to be one of a small handful of examples that supported a pre-existing assumption that Silicon Valley is rotten with rich assholes who think only of themselves?

And what if turned out that the wedding wasn’t really that destructive? Wouldn’t that compromise the entire “parable of excess” thesis?

Parker is the perfect target. He’s a mega-rich bad boy, known for his benders and possible involvement in a drug scandal. He’s the guy who said the unutterably dorky line: “You know what’s cooler than a million dollars? One billion dollars.” Or at least, Justin Timberlake said that while playing Parker in “The Social Network,” but, you know, that’s him, right?

So I can understand why people would stand so ready to accuse Parker of ruining a Redwood forest just so he can have a pretty wedding. It’s fine to criticize him for how much money he spent on the wedding – reportedly the equivalent of a small company’s market cap – and for forming an LLC just for the event. But the man still deserves a fair defense. We would be doing ourselves an injustice if we let our half-informed views on Parker justify getting only one side of the story.

Well, on Thursday Parker was allowed to stage his defense. In a long letter that Madrigal published on The Atlantic’s website, Parker argued, convincingly, that his people left the site in better condition than what they found it in. Rather than being undisturbed forest, the site was covered in black asphalt, he claimed. He had also enlisted the help of the Save the Redwoods League, an organization to which he had previously contributed, to identify the site, which the adjacent hotel was contractually obliged to keep open on a for-profit basis. There was no “ruined castle.” The only stonework was hollow, filled with bird wire, and used for walkways and low walls.

Parker did admit, however, that “we made some mistakes” – which is open to interpretation – and he came off as a bit of a dick at the end of the letter when he tried to argue that the wedding wasn’t really that extravagant because it cost only $4.5 million rather than the rumored $9 million.

It must be said, then, that while Parker seems like the sort of guy we might not like to be friends with, he also doesn’t quite seem to be a forest-destroying cretin. So maybe his wedding isn’t a parable for Valley excess after all.

I have gone on at such tiresome length about this particular case, because it strikes me that the “lesson” being drawn from this Parker episode is similar to the lessons we are supposed to draw from other exceptional examples of Silicon Valley excess: the Sacks party, the Uber hubris, the outlandish parties. Rather than being seen as relatively isolated incidents that embarrass the wider community, they’re seen as emblematic of what must be some out-of-control partyland populated with assholes.

Okay, to some extent that’s true. I mean, sushi off iPads? Come on. But it’s just as true that Silicon Valley is filled with socially awkward programmers who rarely see daylight. It’s just as true that a lot of Valley entrepreneurs quietly work their asses off trying to build businesses that might one day create a lot of new jobs. It’s just as true that many people who live in the Valley also look at Parker’s over-the-top wedding and cringe.

What this particular example exposes is that there exists a very strong impulse to jump to conclusions about Silicon Valley that are colored by pre-existing biases. I would be tempted to argue, in fact, that Madrigal's article is the perfect parable for a wider phenomenon of people using half-baked facts and speculation as the basis for drawing inferences that support ossified views about subjects that are probably a great deal more complicated than they otherwise would have us believe.

The shame is that such populist attacks undermine the very valid criticisms of Silicon Valley – that shameful gender mix, for example, or its political naivety – that ought to be addressed but are also vulnerable to being dismissed as “Silicon Valley haterism.” I’m not trying to say that excess doesn’t exist in the Valley, and I’m not arguing for the Valley elite. I’m merely arguing for nuance.

These debates deserve a higher standard of rigor. It’s too easy to let it all devolve into a simplistic “us against Sean Parker” argumentative framework. It’s too easy to point at Travis Kalanick and shout, “Shady 1 Percenter!” and apply that one man’s actions to the rest of an entire region. It’s too easy to listen to only one side of the story.

Sometimes, after all, what at first looks like a ruined castle is just an empty prop.
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Re: Weddings Used to Be Sacred and Other Lessons About Inter

Postby admin » Fri Jun 26, 2015 11:43 pm

The Lumberjacks Who Felled California’s Giant Redwoods
Kaushik
October 19, 2012

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This series of photos from the 1915-era capture lumberjacks working among the redwoods in Humboldt County, California, when tree logging was at its peak. The photos are part of the Humboldt State University Library Special Collections, a series of pictures from northwest California from the 1880s through the 1920s by Swedish photographer A.W. Ericson.

When Euro-Americans swept westward in the 1800s, they needed raw material for their homes and lives. Commercial logging followed the expansion of America as companies struggled to keep up with the furious pace of progress. Timber harvesting quickly became the top manufacturing industry in the west.

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When gold was discovered in north-western California in 1850, thousands crowded the remote redwood region in search of riches and new lives. Failing in efforts to strike it rich in gold, these men turned toward harvesting the giant trees for booming development in San Francisco and other places on the West Coast. These trees are the tallest and one of the most massive tree species on Earth. The size of the huge trees made them prized timber, as redwood became known for its durability and workability. By 1853, nine sawmills were at work in Eureka, a gold boom town established three years prior due to the gold boom. At that period of time, redwood forest covered more than 2,000,000 acres (8,100 km2) of the California coast.

The loggers used axes, saws, and other early methods of bringing the trees down. Rapidly improving technology in the 20th century allowed more trees to be harvested in less time. Transportation also caught up to the task of moving the massive logs. Railways started replacing horses and oxen. Land fraud was common, as acres of prime redwood forests were transferred from the public domain to private industry. Although some of the perpetrators were caught, many thousands of acres of land were lost in land swindles.

After many decades of unobstructed clear-cut logging, serious efforts toward conservation began. In 1918, the Save-the-Redwoods League was founded to preserve remaining old-growth redwoods, and their work resulted in the establishment of Prairie Creek, Del Norte Coast, and Jedediah Smith Redwoods State Parks among others. By the time Redwood National Park was created in 1968, nearly 90% of the original redwood trees had been logged.

Today, the Redwood National and State Parks combined contain only 133,000 acres (540 km2) of redwood forest. In addition to the redwood forests, the parks preserve other indigenous flora, fauna, grassland prairie, cultural resources, portions of rivers and other streams, and 37 miles (60 km) of pristine coastline.

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Sources: Wikipedia, NPS, DailyMail
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